28 September 2013

Galactic Cowboys - Space In Your Face

I first heard of the Galactic Cowboys way back in my teenage mullet years when they contributed backing vocals to King’s X’s third album Faith Hope Love; An album, and band, I was fairly obsessed with. I was curious as to who they were and, as it was before the days of the Internet let alone Wikipedia, I was restricted to whatever I could find out in Kerrang!, Raw, Rock Hard and other oddly titled rock magazines.

When I eventually found a review of their first, eponymous, debut album I hunted it down and played it to death. I’ve followed them ever since, at least until their break up in 2000.

They had quite a lot of similarities to King’s X in that they had Beatles-style harmonies and joint lead vocals but, whereas King’s X played Hendrix inspired classic rock, Galactic Cowboys were very much a Metal band.

They mixed big, crunchy riffs with poppy choruses, the aforementioned harmonies, and sporadic bursts of acoustic guitar and harmonica solos. While they had a definite air of Progressive Metal to them there was also a sense of urgency and aggression to their sound.

Space In your Face was their second album and released in 1993, it refined their sound from their debut, as well as the sprawling, epic songs it featured several songs around 3-5 minutes. Also main vocalist, Ben Huggins voice had improved considerably and the production was much clearer.

What was the first side back in the day of cassette and vinyl features these shorter, more accessible songs and side two is made up of longer, more experimental songs.

 The first real track is You Make Me Smile which kicks off with a juddering riff and a snarled verse before giving way to the layered harmonies of the chorus. The next song is I Do What I Do which perfectly illustrates what Galactic Cowboys are about; Again it it powers in with a breakneck riff that abruptly becomes a mournful, acoustic verse and then a lush chorus that’s pure power pop. The juxtaposition continues throughout the song with time changes aplenty.

Circles In The Fields is a straightforward metal song about crop circles as the title might suggest. Next is the single If I Were A Killer which is the shortest and most immediate song on the album. The harmonies are muted and the song structure is fairly regimented. It’s a good catchy song and an obvious choice of single.

The first song of side two is Blind and, as mentioned earlier, it sees the band stretching out and breathing. It ebbs and flows throughout its 7 ½ minutes. It’s probably the closest thing on Space In Your Face to modern Progressive Metal and even has a touch of Djent to it in places, though still with a really memorable chorus.

No Problems is next and also 7 ½ minutes long. It's a pop metal anthem and the instrumental part halfway through is a breakdown of various riffs that reminds me of some of The Wildhearts’ loopier middle sections (like in Girlfriend Clothes, Do The Channel Bop or Destroy All Monsters).
About Mrs Leslie is a slower number, it tells the story of an abused wife who murders her and is built around an ominous chugging riff that picks up the pace suddenly for a tumultuous finish.

Now, back when I was listening to this album on cassette the final track on the album was Where Are You Now?, which sees bassist Monty Colvin reminiscing about a childhood girlfriend but, since buying the CD version I discovered it also had two hidden tracks that weren’t on the cassette. Ranch On Mars is another slow chugger that carries on a theme that runs through several Galactic Cowboys albums and the final track, Still Life Of Peace is all out prog rock that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Yes album (if it wasn’t for the occasional burst of crunching guitar).

They split briefly following the departure of guitarist Dane Sonnier but reformed with a new guitarist and released their third album Machine Fish which, while excellent, toned down their quirks and cranked up the heavy.

The albums that came after Machine Fish, such as The Horse That Bud Bought or Let It Go, brought back the oddness but unfortunately it was at the cost of the heaviness. They never really recaptured the magic of their first couple of albums.

Space In Your Face has dated a little in the 20 years since it came out but it’s still really worth checking out if you like Progressive Metal but want something different to the myriad Devin Townsend/Dream Theater/Meshuggah clones doing the rounds these days.

9 out of 10 Almost perfect… Almost
Space In Your Face doesn't seem to be on Spotify but some of their other albums can be found HERE
Buy from Amazon HERE
Visit the bands' website HERE
Watch the video for If I Were A Killer HERE

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